Please remain calm and move toward the exits.

Just another day in a Russian dorm. The info book in the lobby advises you to leave the door shut after your shower because the alarms are so sensitive that the steam from a normal shower can set them off.

After a while, the ‘please remain calm’ bit becomes more ironic than anything else. Most people don’t even get up when the alarm goes off, let alone leave their rooms/go to a safe place. I do, because after probably 5 false alarms in Cherepovets, one day there was a fire, and we had to stand in the snow in our PJs while the firemen came and didn’t make the slightest effort to look like they wanted to go to work that day.

Obviously, the alarm just went off. As I went downstairs, I crossed paths with my favorite security woman (more on her in a moment). She asked where I was going, and I said “Well, just in case this time the alarm is real…” and she shook her head and smiled and said something to the effect of “Oh, it’s never real. You can go home.”

Great, now I feel safe.

So that security woman. A few days ago, I made cheese fritters in my brand-new hotplate and frying pan that I love, and since I couldn’t eat them all, I dolloped some sour cream on there (Russia, you know) and took them down to her. Since then, she is my best friend. Today, after Liza and I had a bit of a blowout and I didn’t want to go home, I bought a newspaper and went to a cafe to sit and read a fair and balanced report (lol jk–see below) of the refugee situation in the US/Europe. Finally, I had to go home. As I got the key from the security woman (woowoo if the key is downstairs that means I have the room to myself!), she saw my newspaper.

“What are you reading?”


She snatched the paper and opened it. “It’s just awful what all’s happening in the world today.”

“Yes, it really is hard to believe.” (this is one of my least favorite conversations. Let’s be more specific! I can’t believe the president of the Mari republic got arrested! Wow, Europe approved another X refugees! Golly, you can get all of your pension information just from this one new website? Great!)

She read the first three pages before handing the paper back while I hovered awkwardly on the other side of the glass partition. Apparently satisfied, she asked me to give it to her when I was finished rather than throwing it out.

It is very good to have the security staff on your side. Pity I’m not staying.